Eat, sleep and exercise: Q&A with Robyn Santa Maria

Living overseas is an amazing experience – but not without its challenges.

Anyone that has lived in another country will be familiar with trying to navigate a new work culture and, sometimes, a new language too.

It’s tough and can easily end in tears.

But living overseas as a freelancer is a different experience – one that instils a sense of independence and freedom.

Don’t just take my word for it though.

I spoke to Australian freelance proofreader and copyeditor Robyn Santa Maria about her life in La Ciotat in the south of France, and her experience of international living.

Robyn Santa Maria

How long have you been working as a freelancer and what made you pursue self-employment?

Since 2015 (many in-house years came before that though). It was never my intention to work for myself; it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led me to take the plunge but hey, everything’s a character-building opportunity, right?

As an Australian living in France, you must have a global network of contacts. How has that helped you as a freelancer?

I’ve been fortunate to tap into my network and work with former colleagues in Australia from my home office set-up here in France. That has allowed me to dip back into subject areas I enjoyed in the past and work with some lovely folks who I miss.

Are there any differences between Australia and France when it comes to being a freelancer?

I’m not well-placed to answer, sorry I never freelanced in Australia, so I can’t compare. However, I chat with peers in the two countries, and I’d say it’s viewed more positively in Australia. Here in France, many people don’t take me seriously when I say I’m self-employed despite my successes. It’s still viewed as a stopgap between jobs.

What have you gained from living and working internationally? And what challenges have you come across?

This is my fourth stint at living and working internationally; I’ve lived in the UK, Japan, and New Zealand, and every single experience has served up its fair share of challenges. The hardest part for me is finding my ‘tribe’. The best part is working with some truly international teams in which multiple languages are spoken, so that enriches my work life.

The pandemic has transformed the world of work in the past 18 months. How has it impacted you?

The biggest change has been learning to share my workspace with my husband. And to be honest, it’s an ongoing challenge. I love him dearly but living and working in the same space every day isn’t always smooth sailing, especially when he spends most of his time on phone calls. I have invested in expensive noise-cancelling headphones – I call them insurance against divorce.

If you weren’t a proofreader and copyeditor, what would you do and why?

I’d be a professional cyclist. I’m happiest when I’m on my road bike, feeling ‘the burn’, and watching the scenery slip past – all while passing middle-aged men on hills, much to their disgust. Basically, I just want to be paid to eat, sleep and exercise.

You can find Robyn on Twitter.

This interview first appeared in the newsletter. Subscribe for writing tips, exclusive Q&As and insights into international living. Direct to your inbox once a month.

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